Michael Gove oversees shake-up of MoJ non-execs

Former non-exec Dame Sue Street says justice secretary's move "not in the spirit of good governance"

By Colin Marrs

15 Jun 2015

Michael Gove has overseen a complete clear-out of his new department’s non-executive board members following his appointment as justice secretary.

The Ministry of Justice announced in its annual report that all four of those currently serving in the roles will leave their posts by the end of June.

Adverts have been placed for replacements, although Sir Theodore Agnew, previously a non-exec director at the Department for Education, has already been appointed to one of the roles. He will chair the audit and risk committee, pending the appointment of a new non-executive chair.

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The report said: “Sir Theodore’s appointment will provide the necessary scrutiny of the department, in line with the board’s operating framework, while the department completes the process of appointing new non-executive members, including a lead non-executive board member.”

The previous lead non-exec director, Tim Breedon, former chief executive of Legal & General, stood down on 1 June, according to the department. He will be followed out of the door by former permanent secretary at the Department for Media & Culture, Dame Sue Street, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) board chairman Bill Griffiths and BNP Paribas non-executive director Fields Wicker-Miurin.

Dame Sue Street told Sky News that Gove took the decision to replace all of the non-executive directors, and expressed her concerns.

"Immediately following the audit committee meeting on June 8th, I tendered my resignation and expressed on the record my unhappiness and my concerns that it produces a discontinuity of external and audit committee levels, which is not in the spirit of good governance,” she said.

Sir Theodore is the founder of private equity company Somerton Capital, and was knighted in the New Year honours list for services to education.

He gave £134,000 to the Conservative Party between 2007 and 2009 as well as a personal donation to David Willetts, then opposition spokesman for innovation, universities and skills. Agnew is also a trustee of Policy Exchange, the think tank established by a group of senior Conservative politicians, including Gove, in 2002.

Labour business spokesman Chuka Umunna told Sky that the move signalled another chapter in the "creeping politicisation of Whitehall".

In a statement, the Ministry of Justice said: "Following the election, the non-executive board members at the MoJ have stood down.

"In line with Cabinet Office protocols, the department has advertised for a new lead non-executive board member. Shortlisted candidates will be subject to a panel-based interview and the process is being overseen by the government's lead non executive, Sir Ian Cheshire.

"In addition, Sir Theodore Agnew was appointed as a new non-executive board member at the start of June. He brings with him five years' experience as a non-executive at the DfE, where he drove efficiencies and improved departmental performance."

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